Northern Hawke's Bay residents played host to Prime Minister John Key yesterday - the first time a New Zealand leader had visited the district in more than 20 years.
Mr Key went by helicopter from Napier with MP Chris Tremain to Nuhaka School, before visiting students at Wairoa College and turning the sod at the Wairoa Integrated Health Centre site.
About 100 students from the small rural Nuhaka and Te Mahia schools listened to a brief speech by Mr Tremain and Mr Key, before asking questions and performing for them.
Mr Key even joined in the final act - an energetic dance ensemble to a Beyonce backing track.
Nuhaka School Year 1 student Alex Wairau, 5, said her highlight was when Mr Key gatecrashed the performance.
"I liked it when he did the dancing, it was cool," she said.
Summer Stewart, 6, agreed: "Watching the dance was funny."
Mr Key said it was important to visit rural communities and see what was happening in schools.
A $5 million upgrade to the existing Wairoa Hospital would integrate primary and secondary health providers in the region.
"It will give people confidence that they can get healthcare and a range of different services all in one place," he said. "It will also attract more medical staff and ultimately attract more people to the region because they will have more confidence in the services here."
Mr Key said a decision was "still outstanding" on the damaged Napier to Gisborne KiwiRail route, an important issue. A "range of things" had still to be considered, including short and long-term issues affecting the rail network.
Protesters were seen throughout the day, six people holding anti-asset sale signs when the helicopter landed at Nuhaka School, and Wairoa man Ngahapu Otetake waving a tino rangatiratanga flag when Mr Key touched down in central Wairoa.
Mr Otetake said: "The hospital is a really good thing for our area and going to visit the schools is a big thing. I am just here because I disagree with some of the things that's happened over the last couple of month to do with the water and the Waitangi Tribunal and shrugging off of the power of the Waitangi Tribunal by the prime minister himself."
Jim Bolger is understood to have been the last prime minister to visit the Northern Bay area, in the early 1990s.